Review- Lies (£¥€$)- Hong Kong Arts Festival


By Nuria Palau



The following is not a review. It is a chronicle of £¥€$ (Lies), by the Belgian group Ontoerend Goed. The play follows the company’s tradition of creating experiences as apart of their expression and their understanding of the world. There are some spoilers, but because the show is a piece of immerse theatre with audience participation, we could say that each show is different and that each person lives it in their own way. 


The show began at 9 o’clock. I arrived early as I usually do and lined up straight away, there was no-one else in the queue. Little by little people started to arrive. I was a bit nervous about this show because I have no idea of how the financial market works, and I got more anxious as I saw that
people around me seemed more familiar with it. The door opened and as they let us in as they would walk us individually to one of the 13 tables accordingly to our order; in this way, people who came with someone else ended up sitting with six strangers. The room was like a casino, where each
table had seven seats, with lines and circles we didn’t understand and host with a portfolio filled with poker chips and some envelopes. In the middle of the room, around three more people kept monitoring everything and there was a big board that would display how we were performing as
countries, but more on that later.

I sat with our host for the evening, played by Inês Kuwan Ieok-fei; she asked everyone our names and wrote it down on a pad. Whenever someone asked her name, she would reply by saying it wasn’t important. 
The tables were full and the doors closed. The 13 hosts explained the rules of the event in unison like a Greek choir: every table was a country and every person was a bank.

Our objective was to make our country succeed, so everyone, wallets out. We took out our wallets and we counted how much money we had in total, then we were asked to invest some of it in Nuriadria (named after me because I was the first one there!). We were all decided how much we
wanted to invest, it had to be somewhere between 50HKD and 200HKD. My card had been blocked that morning and that was all the cash I had so I really hoped our performance in the experience wouldn’t affect our returns- spoiler alert, it didn’t. The money we invested was returned to us as chips worth 1,000,000HKD.

According to how much money we had invested as a country we were rated. Not to brag but Nuriadria was on the top three. And now it was time to play Wall Street. We made small secure investments on tangible things like agriculture and manufacturing. The fate of how well we would
do on our investments lied on the numbers we got when throwing a dice: one or two, you lose, three to six, you win, it was a 1:1 bet, so bet 1,000,000HKD, win 1,000,000HKD. I kept losing. The markets closed and according to how much money we gained, we had to pay taxes. I didn’t pay

Our attention went back to the centre of the room. Countries had been evaluated by their performance and Nuriadria was still in the top 3. Now we could buy bonds from our country and other countries, I was not sure of what that meant, but everyone was doing it, so I followed their
lead. All I knew was that ours were the orange ones. Before the markets were open again I got 8,000,000HKD-  it was a loan from the country, I kept 1,000,000HKD but loaned someone else 7,000,000HKD, keeping, of course, a ticket for their loan that I could later use as real money. 
The person I loaned the money to did the same lending 6,000,000HKD and so on. So 8,000,000HKD became 41,000,000HKD, I couldn't believe it and it made no sense, but at the same time, it did. 

The markets were open again, and now we could bet 2,000,000HKD and win 4,000,000HKD, in that case, we were betting on more abstract things, like rocket science and other types of research. The odds changed as well, as now the dice needed to land between four and six. I was getting
excited as my dice, or “investments” were finally working in my favour. As we kept playing, more bonds of all countries were being sold, our stock rating went up and down. We introduced Shorts and were now betting on financial concepts like Derivatives and Trust Funds, we would bet 5,000,000HKD and throw the dice, the odds were slimmer as we aimed only for fives or sixes, but we could win 15,000,000HKD and of course, we were paying more taxes. The excitement of winning pumped adrenaline all through my body, I was getting cocky and there was obvious confidence in the fact that we could always borrow more money. You could hear all the tables screaming, and laughing and getting excited. The more you rolled the dice, the more money your country would win, so we all encouraged each other to be fast. 

As the game progressed we were advised to sell back the bonds of the countries had no money to pay back our bonds. The market had crashed. We had more imaginary money than the real one. The
whole room worked together to save one of the three countries that were now bankrupt. We suddenly realized all our profits were more likely losses. The market had crashed and it would eventually crash again. On the bright side, I now understood what bonds were, sort of. 

I left the play with a big mixture go feelings. On one hand, I was still feeling the rush of adrenaline and discovered I might be prone to a gambling addiction because I was considering taking a ferry
to Macau and try my luck. On the other, I was completely surprised about how I finally understood Market crashes, and how the Stock Exchange worked, something that neither my uni professors nor The Big Short had accomplished. Finally, I was a bit scared about the fact that this is how our
whole financial stability works and this is what our society is basically built on, the play felt like a game, and I am sure that’s how it feels in real life, there is a sense of invincibility, of "I can get away with this" there is a complete disassociation between “the 1%” and reality and it does seem that everything is built on £¥€$.

Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 4.0


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